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NFL

NFL Players Lose Another Collective Bargaining Agreement 

They protected the chicken and neglected the mentals.

Image Credit: TSL

The world has stopped in its tracks due to the threat of the coronavirus, but in the NFL, the money doesn’t stop and business is still being conducted as the virus makes its international rounds and claims more humans.  

The NFL season basically just ended in February so the League is less affected by the coronavirus shutdown than those that play in the Spring. 

The NFL, however, does conduct its most important business during this time of the year and the owners were all in, despite concerns from other league factions.    

According to football guru Adam Schefter, there are players and coaches and agents around the league that are incensed that the NFL is conducting business as usual, “and they can’t understand how countries like Italy and France and Spain are closing down…How every sport in our country is suspending play and free agency is going to go on.”

The NFL Players association narrowly approved the new Collective Bargaining agreement this weekend by less than 100 votes.  The final tally was 1,019 to 959. 

The Major Points are the regular season, which remarkably increases to 17 games in 2021 (preseason reduced to 3 games) 

Also an expanded playoff field to 14 teams likely for 2020 (only No. 1 seed in each conference gets bye). That could be exciting and keeps more teams involved in the playoff hunt and making money for another playoff game or two as well.  

The NFLPA has been known for losing past CBA battles and if you approach this from a humanist standpoint, rather than a capitalistic view, they basically got outwitted again. 

Player Safety vs. $$$$

Expanding the regular season is not a well-liked idea among NFL players who already view 16 as taking too damaging a toll on their bodies. Proof of rampant CTE in former players still exists, but it seems like everyone is ignoring that. Player safety has been something that the NFL uses to justify rule changes and an increase in penalties, but adding another game to the season runs contrary to everything player safety is about. We see the damage that 14 and 16 game seasons have done to players. 

We started reporting on CTE back in 2012: 

The largest study of CTE, a brain disease caused by repeated hits to the head, was conducted at Boston University. They were able to break down stages of CTE based on damage inflicted upon the brain. CTE causes confusion, depression and dementia.

Of the 85 brains donated by the families of deceased veterans and athletes with histories of repeated head trauma, they found CTE in 68 of them. 

Of note, 34 of the 35 brains donated by NFL football players for the study were found to have CTE. 

In 2016, the evidence was so insurmountable, the NFL publicly acknowledged for the first time a connection between football and CTE, but would stop short of taking any blame.

In June 2015, a federal judge approved a class-action lawsuit settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players, providing up to $5 million per retired player for serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma.

According to CNN.com, “Chronic traumatic encephalopathy was found in 99% of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research,” according to a study published in Journal of the American Medical Association.

The disease was identified in 110 out of 111 former NFL players. It was also found in three of the 14 high school players and 48 of the 53 college players. The study included brains of individuals and former NFL stars who have been publicly confirmed to have had the disease.

 A rush of safety measures and rules were instituted to lessen contact and concussions, but football is football at the end of the day. 

As far as this new CBA goes, If I’m a player in the NFL, I’m not signing on for more games until the NFL admits that football can cause widespread brain damage and they have accepted the fact that post-career care is a vital part of this process. Too many former players are walking around like vegetables in retirement and everyone is justifying it for a couple of more dollars. 

The NFL buttered up the majority of players who don’t have big contracts with promises of more money.  

It’s a ridiculous notion to think that after all of the medical research and studies, this CBA negotiation was ” just business,” It coincides with the callous way that the NFL is continuing to think money in a time where 99 percent of the business in this country is being affected by the coronavirus. 

What are the players really getting? 

 More money, in the form of a higher share of league revenue beginning in 2021. 

Annual revenue split

2020: Owners receive 53 percent; players receive 47 percent

2021-2030: Owners receive 52 percent; players receive 48 percent

Salary Hikes 

Immediate increases in minimum salaries

$1 million in minimum salaries by 2029

Any players carrying current above-league-minimum contracts into the new CBA will receive a bonus equivalent to 1/17 their salary if/when the NFL moves from 16 to 17 regular season games

The players also received the right to smoke more cannabis without facing immediate suspension and more days off, less days hitting with pads. Basically, more chill days.  

Work Rules

Vested veterans (players with four or more accrued seasons) receive up to five days of absences for workouts, including one OTA, without losing offseason workout bonus

Mandatory three days off after a Thursday game

Maximum of 12 hours at team facilities per day

No more than three consecutive days of padded practices at training camp; maximum of 16

Teams are not allowed to add padded practices in the regular season once the 17-game seasons start. Under this new CBA, during the regular season, padded practices will be limited to 14, 11 of which must be held during the first 11 weeks

How Do These Things Help Stem CTE?

All of that is cool, but it doesn’t stop players from getting concussions on game day when the turn up is real. It also doesn’t allow players to practice tackling techniques or build their bodies up during the week to be able to take the punishment delivered on Sunday. 

The NFL seems to think that it can somehow legislate concussions and CTE out of the game by making it more and like touch football, but the essence of football — particularly within the trenches — will always be violent, physically challenging, relentless, nasty and a bit out of control. 

See Myles Garrett vs. Mason Rudolph last season. 

In this new CBA, which will at least maintain labor peace for the next decade, I see a lot of pretty things for the players and the usual come up for the owners. Bottom line is, the players will never truly be respected in CBA negotiations if owners could make them accept another game when everyone in the world knows that puts players in more danger The injuries aren’t occurring any less and it will take another 10-25 years before we discover how many more players from this generation get brain damage or debilitating injuries.

The fact that the NFL and the players themselves think that a bigger piece of the pie is worth relenting to something that they previously agreed they’d never do will only weaken the NFLPA in the long run. They even lost bargaining power for the future as holdouts will be fined more significantly. 

Over the past few seasons, superstar players have turned the table on owners by holding out prior to their free-agent seasons and forcing huge contracts or trades.  The owners want to kill that leverage. The players let them. 

Taking Care of Vets

Other than a bit more money, I don’t see what the players really gained. It certainly wasn’t respect from the owners or dignity or an understanding of a culture that almost implores current generations to take care of past players who have sacrificed. 

Dawn’s criticism of the NFL is justified, even with the upgrades it has made with this new CBA, health care is still going to be a problem for retired players.

The NFL’s more than 10,000 retired players or alumni will all receive what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell describes as “dramatically increased benefits” as part of the new CBA between the owners and players.

The proposed CBA includes major improvements that we at NFL Alumni sought for many months from owners and the union,” reads a statement on the NFL Alumni web site. “The document includes higher pensions—some by as much as 60 percent– for all alumni; a reduction in pension requirements from four to three vested seasons for all alumni; and a $50,000 Health Reimbursement Account for all vested players who previously had not been eligible due to their retirement date.

According to the NFL Alumni, average pensions for players will go from $30,000 per year to $46,000 per year, and more than 10,000 former players will realize that benefit

As the world is paralyzed by coronavirus, it’s business as usual for the NFL. Let’s not forget that after all of that negotiating, the players still don’t have guaranteed contracts. That has to be negotiated, so the tragic stories of NFL players who are cut down by injury or whose body is mutilated from an NFL career and have no post-career medical benefits or psychological health benefits will remain. 

Let’s hope that when we look back on seeing Howie Long’s hands trembling on TV during a telecast. Or wonder why other former greats who are in terrible mental and physical shape, are rarely seen in public. That it was all worth it. 

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